After years of diminishing store counts in the US, McDonald's plans to add more restaurants this year.
Though corporate layoffs are projected in April, CEO Chris Kempczinski told staff earlier this month that his 2023 vision calls for scaling innovation and growing restaurants.
Owning a McDonald's might seem lucrative for a potential franchisee, but it does require a lot of cash compared to fast-food rivals like Chick-fil-A and Subway.
McDonald's restaurants posted average domestic sales of $4 million in 2021, according to the chain's franchise disclosure report for 2022. That's half of what most Chick-fil-A locations pull in a year.
Initial investment costs for running a McDonald's range from $1.4 million and $2.5 million — including a $45,000 franchise fee. For new restaurants, a bulk of those costs cover signs, seating, equipment, and decor, according to the disclosure report.
The base rent varies as it depends on when the restaurant opened and acquisition and development costs. The rent for most new McDonald's restaurants ranges from 10% of total gross sales to $15.75% for new restaurants that have opened since January 1, 2020.
Additionally, there are numerous monthly and annual fees franchisees must pay, including:
Franchise startup costs vary among other top fast-food chains.
Subway is far less expensive than McDonald's. The initial investment for a potential Subway operator ranges from $222,050 to $506,900, according to Subway's 2022 franchise disclosure report. That's up from between $116,000 and $263,000 in 2019.
Many McDonald's franchisees consider Chick-fil-A their biggest competitor. Total costs to launch a franchised Chick-fil-A restaurant range from $219,055 to $2,912,697, according to the chain's 2022 franchise disclosure report. Chick-fil-A restaurants, which are only open six days a week, average more than $8 million in sales annually among non-mall locations.
The fast-food market is brimming with morning options, so I tried as many breakfast sandwiches as I could get my hands from Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, and Subway.
I judged the sandwiches on taste, price, and overall quality, ranking them from worst to best.
A lonely vegetarian option on Burger King's menu, this egg-and-cheese biscuit was the most disappointing.
The scrambled eggs were too salty, and the dry, greasy biscuit looked more like a browned English muffin. The butter flavor was overpowering and seemed artificial.
Even the slice of melted cheese couldn't redeem it, since this simple sandwich was really only as good as its bread and egg.
Though Burger King isn't the only chain to offer a plain sausage biscuit, this one had an off-putting artificial aftertaste, in my opinion.
It's only a dollar, but you get what you pay for. The sausage patty was noticeably smaller and thinner than the patties in the other options.
The meat was also somewhat chewy and dull. It wasn't inedible, but it had no standout quality besides its saltiness. It could've used some garlic or onion.
The biscuit's artificial-butter flavor brought down this meal, too. As the sandwich had no cheese or egg, it was hard to think of it as a satisfying breakfast.
"Fully loaded" is apt. This triple-meat biscuit featured a scrambled-egg patty, sausage, American cheese, strips of bacon, and ham.
There's nothing wrong with wanting extra protein, but there was so much happening that it was hard to identify or enjoy one clear flavor. The varied textures formed one vaguely chewy block of salt and meat.
This sandwich's hodgepodge of ingredients made it more chaotic than filling.
There are four sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits on this list, and one of them had to come in last place.
I thought the egg was too salty and chewy, and the sausage was plain and forgettable — neither could redeem the biscuit (though I appreciated the ample American cheese).
Even though this was a cheaper option, the quality was lacking.
This sandwich carried over the flaws of its smaller option.
The extra sausage didn't make up for the poorly made biscuit. If anything, everything tasted saltier.
This sandwich was marginally better than Burger King's sausage option. The chain also puts bacon on burgers, after all.
The bacon gave the texture some needed variation and crunch, but there wasn't enough of it to redeem the lackluster egg and biscuit.
I didn't love the texture and thickness of this ham, but it had a surprisingly decent salty-smoky profile.
That said, Burger King's biscuit weighed down this sandwich, too.
The Fully Loaded biscuit was too much, but the sausage-and-bacon biscuit had just enough meat to offer more bang for your buck without going overboard.
It was still too salty for my liking, but if you're a fan of Burger King's breakfast, you'll probably enjoy this one.
Subway's breakfast flatbreads deserve considerable marks since they're customizable, sometimes at no additional cost. While toppings like avocado are more expensive, I like that they can be added in the first place.
But I tried this bacon, egg, and cheese flatbread without any extra fixings and was disappointed.
The bacon was flimsy and lacked flavor. The eggs were floppy and a bit grainy, and the bread was like a cross between a whole-wheat tortilla and an underseasoned pita.
I disliked the bacon so much that this meatless option edged it out, but it still didn't fit the bill.
The flatbread basically swallowed the paper-thin omelet. On the plus side, since there was no meat, it came with more cheese than the other options.
I don't understand the hype behind McGriddles.
I love McDonald's hotcakes, so the idea of eating them with a little bit of syrup and bacon in the same bite was appealing. But this McGriddle was overly sugary and didn't taste like a cohesive meal.
The egg patty didn't taste fresh to me, and the griddle cakes were a bit too tall and sweet. With pancakes, you can decide how much syrup you use, but that wasn't the case here. And McDonald's bacon, which was thin and floppy, faded into the background.
This all led to an inconsistent ratio of sweet and savory ingredients per bite.
I was excited about a meat other than sausage or bacon, but this didn't impress.
The steak was too chewy — some bites tasted like pure fat, while others were dry and overcooked. Though the seasoning with notes of onion and garlic was quite nice.
The perfectly round, peppery sausage patty was a better fit for the sweet, maple-infused domes, though McDonald's combination of cheese and sweet pancakes was still off-putting to me.
This also might've been better without the folded egg, which made the sandwich taller than it needed to be yet didn't add much flavor.
McDonald's sausage was solid, but the biscuit was more crumbly than flaky, which made it slightly too dry.
Its flavor was also underwhelming — like something was missing. A sauce likely would've fixed this.
The brushed-on butter helped, but it lacked the distinct buttermilk flavor that makes biscuits shine.
If I'm ordering a plain sandwich, it's mainly because I want a biscuit with some protein, so the bun has to impress. Wendy's edged out McDonald's in this regard.
This biscuit was wonderfully flaky, with a flavor that was satisfying enough to eat plain.
However, the sausage was the weak link. With a pleasantly meaty and savory flavor, it wasn't bad, but it could've used more seasoning, like paprika or garlic.
The most basic McGriddle was also the best — and $2 cheaper than the others.
Without egg and cheese, the interplay of peppery, savory, and sweet flavors was present in every bite.
The syrup pockets in the griddle cakes were still excessive, but if you're a big fan of McDonald's hotcakes and sausage and want something more interesting than the biscuit, I'd recommend this simple, classic McGriddle over the others.
Unfortunately, this whole-wheat bagel didn't hold the chicken, egg, and cheese together well. It also made the meal a bit dry, so I'd suggest eating it with sauce.
On the whole, this sandwich didn't taste great. For the cost, I'd rather order a biscuit or an English muffin.
Considering this sandwich already had two other salty meats, it didn't also need ham.
The croissant itself tasted pretty good, so this was better than the Fully Loaded biscuit.
Conversely, ham elevated my favorite Subway breakfast sandwich.
Subway's Black Forest ham had a nice smoky flavor and salty edges that almost made me forget about the mediocre egg patty. It also didn't feel heavy.
If I ever need to grab breakfast from Subway, this will be my order, though I might add mustard.
Though the sausage, the egg, and the croissant were proportional and balanced, they weren't individually very exciting or high-quality.
The croissant was unquestionably the highlight, but you'd need to eat it right away, since it didn't hold up well against the other, greasier ingredients.
Doubling the sausage and American cheese weighed down this sandwich and made it greasier.
However, I ranked it above the single-patty option since it was a better value for a similar price.
The bacon Croissan'wich's combination of American cheese, scrambled eggs, and meat on the soft, flaky bun was pretty satisfying as a quick breakfast.
Though Burger King's bacon can be inconsistent, in this case I preferred it to the sausage since it complemented the croissant's texture instead of weighing it down.
A different kind of cheese would've easily improved this meal, though.
This sandwich needed sauce and was lackluster compared with Chick-fil-A's other offerings.
The egg was quite bland, and though the bacon was decently thick and smoky, it was slightly too chewy.
The worst part was the tough English muffin that held it all together. Even though it made the meal lighter, it wasn't worth it.
Chick-fil-A's other English-muffin sandwich didn't impress me much.
It faced many of the same issues as the previous sandwich, plus I thought the sausage was too chewy and needed more seasoning.
You're better off getting a McMuffin.
This sandwich's two-meat combo was better than the Fully Loaded Croissan'wich.
It was still heavier than I'd prefer, but if you like Burger King's bacon and want something more substantial, this sandwich would fit the bill.
This was quite salty, though, so keep a drink and some sauce for dipping nearby.
McDonald's bacon was on the saltier side, and the addition of the egg patty and the crumbly biscuit meant this sandwich was pretty dry. The American cheese highlighted that saltiness.
Dipping the sandwich in ketchup made it taste much better.
The ham wasn't the best quality, in my opinion, but this sandwich would make an OK option if you're not in the mood for bacon or sausage.
I wish Burger King had offered it with Swiss cheese, which definitely would've elevated it.
It says a lot about Wendy's breakfast that one of its worst options is so high in my ranking.
The chain's bacon was the most consistent — the right mix of salty and smoky while still being crispy and thick.
This sandwich did an OK job of highlighting the familiar flavors people want in a bacon sandwich, plus the egg was soft and buttery.
However, the bread lost me. I'd expected a standard hamburger bun, but the sandwich had a dry roll that desperately needed ketchup.
This classic sausage sandwich was fine, but Wendy's offers better options on a higher-quality bun.
The sausage patty made each bite slightly more uniform, making this sandwich a bit better than the bacon alternative.
The juices from the sausage soaked into the biscuit and made this sandwich less dry than its bacon counterpart.
This was an adequate sausage sandwich, but the somewhat rubbery egg was the weak link. Plus it would've tasted better with cheddar cheese instead of American.
Without the delicious McMuffin egg with the yummy yolk center, this order was forgettable.
But if you need to omit the egg, this sausage-and-cheese combo on a crunchy English muffin was pretty decent.
If you're looking for a light handheld breakfast, the Egg White Grill would be your answer.
It swapped a traditional omelet for a thin layer of egg whites, a buttery biscuit for a whole-wheat English muffin, and breakfast meat for grilled chicken.
Overall, it tasted pretty good. The grilled chicken tasted fresh and well seasoned, with a yummy citrus marinade. Even though the egg whites didn't add much flavor, they tasted real.
I wish I could've upgraded the American cheese to cheddar or pepper jack without paying more.
The English muffin didn't impress me — I took it off halfway through and ate just the contents. But this could be overlooked with some sauce.
Chick-fil-A's biscuits were fantastic, with an appetizing golden exterior and an irresistibly soft and slightly doughy center. They had just enough salt and butter to keep me wanting more but were also a bit sweet.
Though there wasn't anything groundbreaking about a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit, the chain's take on this iconic sandwich was better than many of the other options in this ranking.
The eggs were still a bit dry and maybe needed more butter. The sausage patty also could've used more seasoning since it wasn't quite bold enough to make an impact.
Overall, this was a solid sandwich — but if you're going to Chick-fil-A for breakfast, you might as well opt for a more flavorful option.
I had mixed feelings about this sandwich.
The croissant was fluffy and tasty, and, as usual, Wendy's sausage and egg tasted fine.
However, the Swiss sauce on this sandwich in lieu of sliced cheese felt out of place. It was strangely sweet and reminded me of a cross between mayo and fondue.
It might be good on the breakfast potatoes, but I thought it paired poorly with the sausage. Plus the creamy texture was distracting on the soft sandwich.
Real cheese would've served the meal much better. But even so, the quality of the other ingredients made up for it.
Wendy's bacon alternative was even better. The textural combination of the crispy meat, fluffy egg, and pillowy bun was on point.
The chain didn't skimp on the meat either. The sandwich had (at least) three thick bacon strips layered in a cross pattern, which ensured a balance of meat, egg, and bread from start to finish.
I still wish the sandwich just had sliced cheese instead of the Swiss sauce, but it was better with the bacon.
The bacon was better than I'd expect from a chicken chain. It had a bold flavor with lightly crispy edges, and it wasn't too chewy or fatty.
Pairing bacon with the chain's scrumptious biscuits and melted cheese made for a solid breakfast.
This sandwich was equal parts fun and intimidating.
It contained alternating layers of crispy bacon and American cheese, along with a sausage that stood in for the regular beef patty on the classic Baconator. It was topped with Wendy's Swiss sauce.
This was a bacon lover's paradise. Wendy's didn't skimp on the meat, so I really got my money's worth.
But compared with other sandwiches on this list, it was a bit too much. The sausage's flavor seemed like it was competing with the bacon, and the Swiss sauce made this order even heavier.
This union of maple and fried chicken made my heart flutter. The addition of smoky bacon and a delicious croissant made this sandwich taste like something I'd order at a nice brunch.
The chicken and bacon did a fine job balancing the sugary notes, and the thin breading on the cutlet was crispy and fresh.
But on my order, the maple-butter mixture totally separated. When I took a bite, I was met with a messy mix of sticky syrup and salted butter, though this might've been an error.
This sandwich had all the components of a delicious meal: savory fried chicken, a flaky buttermilk biscuit, and a sweet sauce.
However, much to my surprise, the honey butter actually tasted more like maple.
I didn't dislike the sauce, but I wasn't expecting it, which was a bit off-putting. There was only a small amount, so the sandwich was